27 Nov 2009

From far away

If my chances of visiting my native country and enjoy the local micro brewing boom are at the moment non existent, I would then need some quantum theorist to estimate those of visiting neighbouring Chile, where there also seems to be a micro brewing boom, or at least that is the impression I get from reading Catador's blog.

The magic of the Internet has practically vanished borders and that is how Leonardo, one of my Chilean readers, made it possible for me to get a small taste of what is happening in his country's beer scene. While we were having a very good time, with very good beers at Pivovarský Dům, he gave me the five samples he'd lugged all the way from the Southern Hemisphere, four from Szot and one from Volcanes del Sur.

I decided to start with the bunch from Szot. Seen from here, Szot (which I like to pronounce the Polish way, "Shot") is a pretty successful microbrewery with a rather good reputation among local beer fans. The four samples I got were Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Stout and Vapor, all with 5%ABV (though the web page says they have 6%).
I opened Pale Ale first. I thought, accurately, that it would be the paler of the lot. It pours gold-orange and, at least this bottle, is very cloudy. More than a pale ale it looks like a Blegian Blonde or a Weizen without much head. The bouquet has a lot, way too much, yeast that blankets all the rest. The same notes can be found in the taste, there's a bit of fruit when the sip goes it, but soon its eliminated by the sourness of the yeast. I don't like saying that a beer "isn't true to style", but this one felt like drinking a not very well made Belgian ale.
A couple of hours later I opened Ámbar, which does pour amber, as the Spanish name promises. It's clearer than the previous and also has a nicer head. The nose is mild, mostly caramel, the same yeasts as in the Pale Ale can also be felt, better integrated this time, though. The taste is weak, boring, flat, forgettable, tired. There's some fruit, toffee and spice but they never manage to express themselves as they should. At best, Szot Pale Ale could be an adequate "entry beer". It would never scare a novice away, but a more experienced or demanding palate will be left wanting for more, and not of the same.
It was the turn of Stout. Very dark amber it pours, not getting to black, with too much head. There are some green apples with a background of coffee in the nose, and also the same yeasts as before. The taste surprises with roasted, coffee and cocoa notes, with a mild sourness at the finish. Unfortunately, and partly due to the thin body, once the initial surprise wears out we are left with a beer that doesn't have much to say and ends up being a bore.

I had already lost my faith on this Chilean micro, but I had left Vapor (Steam) for last because it was the one I was most curious about. I had already tasted a couple of German Dampfbiere, which I had liked a lot. Taking a look at the web page I find that this is an hybrid lager, which points more to an American influenced thing. Does this all matter? No. Let's drink and shut up!
Szot Vapor pours orange, topped by a nice, spongy head. A handsome beer. In the bouquet there's a lot of tropical fruit and flowers, which reminded me to some pale ales I've had. To the eyes and the nose, this beer is already a few steps above the others, to the palate, it's like 10 floors above. Silky body that softly coats the palate, there's a lot of fruit with a delicate touch of caramel that brings it up, everything well balanced by flowers and spice. Very, very tasty. This is what an "entry beer" should be like! It's different enough to everything a novice has drunk before, without anything too exotic or aggressive to scare them away, and at the same time, it's interesting enough to keep the more experienced drinkers entertained.
I left for "dessert" Volcanes del Sur al Chocolate, according to them a "Artisan Premium Bock" (or something like that). I'm going to be brief. It's awful! It tastes like a mass produced dark lager with some cheap cocoa powder in it. Ended up in the drain. I sometimes wonder why there are so many micros that make this rubbish (they sell well, you moron! Good reason).

Anyway, the balance. Forgetting for a moment the taste-bud rape that was Volcanes del Sur and focusing only on Szot, it's not good. I don't care what sort of market they are in, a brewery with the experience and reputation of Szot shouldn't be selling such uninspired beers like Pale Ale, Amber Ale and Stout, specially when they show their talent and skill with such a good product like Vapor.

Thanks Leonardo!

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24 Nov 2009

Announcement

Following the steps of better writers than me I've decided to publish a book. It's still in the project stage and it won't be a historical, theoretical or technical essay about beer. For that, I don't have the chops yet. It's something a lot more mundane, but at the same time, a lot more useful to the layman: a Pub, etc. Guide of Prague.

Similar stuff has been already published, so I'm not going to say I'm original or an innovator. The guide I'm putting together, however, has a couple of advantages over others: I live in Prague, so it will be more easily updated, and its scope is far more ambitious than any other, I'm planning to cover the whole of the Czech capital and some of it's outskirts, and try to include at least one nice place to have good beer in every one of its boroughs. Oh! And it will also be published in Spanish.

Some of the material has already been published in this blog, some is already compiled in a notebook or in  my always reliable head, the rest, that is most of it, though, I still have to go and research. For that I will need time and money. In an ideal world a publishing house would offer me a juicy advance for such an interesting book. I don't see that happening, really, so I've decided to look for sponsors to finance this project.

Stop! Wait! All of you breweries and restaurants! Put down those mobile phones, close those e-mail windows. I don't want that kind of sponsorship, I want my book to be fully independent. And that is why I am appealing to you, my readers and followers. All you have to do is click on the Donate button right below my picture and choose an amount in Euro (you don't need to have a Paypal account, credit cards are accepted).

Of course, you won't be left only with the satisfaction of having done a good deed, those of you who send some money will receive a copy of the electronic edition or, depending on you generosity the paper edition, of the book once it's published, which I hope to do in about a year. (The donations will also help to set myself a deadline).

Needless to say, any bit of information about pubs in Prague will be more than welcome.

Thanks a lot for your support financial or otherwise, and Na Zdraví!

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23 Nov 2009

The Debate

It all started with this post in Ron's blog, followed by one from Alan, both saying how tired they were of "innovative beers". Stephen Beaumont responded by posting his defense of innovation. Stan entered the discussion (which was raging in the comment sections) asking if there really was any innovation to begin with, to which Stephen that yes, there is, though not nearly as much as many believe, and that there are also different kinds, and I couldn't agree more.

I don't really think anyone is against innovation or the new, not even Ron in his fiery rant. The problem, in my opinion, is another: those who worship innovation.

Several times I've read people praising how dynamic the American craft beer scene is thanks to all those great innovators (not so much, according to those on the know) compared to the European, a prisoner of those pesky traditions, which have not allowed it to develop anything new in who knows how many decades.

This crowd (many of whom don't really understand beer) imply, and sometimes say it openly, that the "innovative" brewers are better than the "traditionalists". Which is utter bollocks.

Being able to come out with a couple of new beers every year doesn't make you a better brewer, or worse one, than another who for many years has been brewing the same few, old and tired styles with consistent quality. Those are just different approaches to the business.

In their fanaticism for "the new" and for rating and ticking the biggest possible number of beers, these geeks seem to miss an essential thing, a brewery is, first and foremost, a business.

Why then those "Europeans" don't innovate enough? Well, it might be that some breweries operate in a conservative market, with little interest or openness for new flavours. It could also be that the brewers themselves aren't interested in doing anything out of the ordinary. If their beers are not only consistently good, but also sell well enough, who can blame them?

The debate, of course, also dealt with the topic of extreme beers (which have many a beer enthusiast sick to their teeth already). After meditating on the subject I've come to the conclusion that, though I enjoy drinking these kind of beers as much as the next geek, I don't always fancy "tasting". My favourite beers are those that I can pick from the fridge when I get home, that I can drink while I cook, watch a film, write, relax or spend some time with friends. In other words, beers that won't demand too much of my attention, but are interesting enough on their own at the same time.

And that is sort of the point Ron wanted to make from the beginning. I always say that the most, if not the only, important thing is what you've got in the glass. The rest, is at most, interesting. As long as a beer is well made, tasty, etc, I really don't care too much about what the labels or the marketing say.

Na Zdraví!

19 Nov 2009

Flagship

A few months ago I spoke in some detail about K Brewery Trade, for those of you who don't remember and/or can't be arsed with reading this post, I'll make a summary. This Czech company came pretty much out of nowhere and bought several regional breweries. Today they own seven and have quite important stakes in at least two more.

Even though their slogan is "Navrát k tradici" (Back to tradition), many are those who don't trust the real intentions of these people. Some believe they are a proxy of Heineken, which, as you might remember, was neither denied, nor confirmed by the Czech subsidiary of the Dutch concern.

I've got serious doubts that the rumor is true. I really don't see what interest Heineken could have in this bunch of regional breweries, most of which (unfortunately) aren't even very valuable as brands.

Needless to say, KBT (as they are known in the street), has been categorically denying all that to anyone who asks. Still, even if we take them to their word, that they are really interested in beer and brewing, they are and will always be business people. So, if some day in the future someone, be it Heineken, Carlsberg, Diageo or Jack Mehoffer, offers them an interesting enough figure, how much could they be blamed if they accept it?

But let's leave the realm of speculation and come back to the present. Whatever their future plans are, there is no doubt that KBT have decided to take things seriously. Last month, at the Prague Oktoberfest, they presented their flagship beer. It's packaging, a green bottle with long neck wrapped in golden foil, and its price range make very clear where those guns are aiming (Pilsner Urquell and Budvar, for those of you who don't have it so clear). The beer is called Lobkowicz Premium, and it's being marketed with the slogan "Šlechtic mezi pivy" (A noble/aristocrat among beers).

For reasons hard to understand the beer isn't brewwed in Vysoký Chlumec, as the rest of the Lobkowicz beers are, but in Protivín, home of the Platan beers*. Not that you will know that by reading the label. For reasons that are still harder to understand (well, not so, but it sounds nicer this way), the good people of KBT have decided not to divulge that information.

I think I've made myself very clear about the importance of origin when it comes to selling a beer. Hiding that piece of information is to me a pretty big mistake coming from someone who claims to be a champion of tradition.

But let's cut all this bollocks. I always say that the only thing that matters is what you've got in the glass, so let's see what the beer has to say.
I wish it would shut up. Lobkowicz Premium is awful. All that stuff about the ingredients and the tradition and what have you doesn't matter at all, it's awful. It shows it's been brewed in Protivín, it's got all the things I don't like of some of the Platan beers and more. It's very thin, with a totally unbalanced bitterness and not enough malt to put those hops in line. At times it gave me the impression that they wanted to make something hoppier than the rest (which is something any idiot with enough hops could manage) and it also felt as something that is not quite finished yet. It might be that those 35 days the beer is said to be lagered aren't enough (incidentally, other KBT beers are lagered longer and they don't make such a big fuss about it), but even if they left it a month or two longer, I don't think it will be that much better.

Whatever. Given the choice, I would pick Pilsner Urquell, Budvar or even Krušovice instead of Lobkowicz Premium. Having so many good beers in their portfolio (some of which, with a bit of tweakin,g could be great), it's impossible to understand (and now I mean it) why they chose as their flagship a new product that is so flawed.

Na Zdraví!

A curiosity for historians. Pivovar Vysoký Chlumec was for a very long time property of the Lobkowicz family. Pivovar Protivín, on the other hand, was until 1947 or so, property of the Schwarzenberg family. I would love to know what the relationship between this two noble families was and what's their opinion of a beer with the name of one being brewed at the former property of the other.

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17 Nov 2009

20 years is nothing

20 years ago today I was a couple of weeks from finishing High School. Many things were going around in my mind. A big sense of accomplishment from having successfully finished such an important stage in my life; some nervousness from what the future had in stock for me and from knowing that things would never be so easy again and also a bit of sadness from knowing deep down that the twists and turns of life would make me loose touch with many of the people I had shared so many years of my life with.

1989 was also a very hectic year from Argentina. Presidential elections, economic meltdown and violent social unrest. Despite all this, we got and followed the news of the events unfolding in Eastern Europe: Hungary opening its border with Austria, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

20 years ago today the Velvet Revolution started. It was a series of peaceful protests that, though not the first of their kind, in a few days managed to bring down the Communist Regime. Back then I didn't pay too much attention to the details, and so it wasn't until I moved here that I knew that the leader of that movement was a playwright, essayist and political dissident called Václav Havel. By the end of that year Mr Havel would be elected President of Czechoslovakia and in 2002 he was in the last months of his second, and last, term as President of the Czech Rep.

With time I would learn more things about this man and today, even though I don't share many of his political views, I have great respect and some admiration for him. That's because he has something that few politicians nowadays have, Integrity. That and massive cojones. Once I read that, when things were getting pretty rough for people like him, he was offered help to emigrate. He chose to stay and fight from the inside, risking, if not his life, for sure his health.
I've seen Václav Havel in person twice, and both times I was very impressed. Neither was at an official event or anything similar, I didn't even hear him speak. I saw him at the supermarket, alone. No bodyguards, no PA's, no extraordinary security measures, just a pensioner doing his shopping like everyone else. Some people approached him to greet him or shake his hand, most went about their business as if nothing was happening (something that impressed me about the Czechs as well). Where I come from, you would never see an ex-president or high profile politician doing something so pedestrian, they have a detachment of minions to take care of that (besides, if they did bother, people wouldn't approach them to shake their hands, but to lynch them, but that's something else).

And what does it all have to do with the topic of this blog? Well, it's well known that Mr. Havel likes his pivo, and he likes it good. I would love to share a few pints with him at a pub. I'm sure conversation would be great and the man must have some really juicy stories to tell.

So today I raise my "půl litr" in honour of Václav Havel and all those brave men and women who withouth shedding any blood were able to end four decades of oppression and lies.

Na vaše Zdraví, Česko!

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16 Nov 2009

A Critic to the Critics

Even though we hardly dine out anymore, I still enjoy reading Prague restaurant reviews. I specially like those where the author has a good grasp of the concept of value for money, even if they aren't paying from their own pockets, and where they tell us about their dining experience in a straightforward, fun to read language.

Unfortunately, I must say I've lost my patience with the whole lot of them. The reason, their ignorance and total lack of interest in beer.

The Czech Republic is home to some of the finest lagers in the world. "Pivo" is a source of national pride and plays an important part in Czech popular and culinary cultures. How is it then that restaurant reviewers don't complain when a restaurant offers bad beer?

No, I'm not just grumpy because it's Monday morning (well, a bit, yes). Many times I've read how reviewers complain, and fairly so, about the authenticity or freshness of some ingredients, the way a dish is prepared or presented, the composition of menus and even the prize and provenance of mineral water. Oh! But a 0.3l glass of Stella Artois at 60CZK? No worries there, mate. They've even praised the stuff!

In this piece in CBW the author, one Milan Ballik, says: "One mug of ice-cold draft Stella Artois beer helped me to regain my spirit..." (I really can't imagine how that popcorn juice could help anyone with half a palate to feel better). Or Laura Baranik in her review of Potrefená Husa claims that the chain serves "quality beer". They might now how to tap it, but Stella and Staropramen are NOT quality beers by Czech standards, far from it (and no, I don't think she meant Leffe and Hoegaarden).

I'm sure there are some of you who are thinking of writing a comment saying something like: "But there are many people who like Stella! So what's the problem?"

Sadly, that is true. But you know what? There are also many people who don't like their spicy food to be too spicy, who prefer their pasta, steaks and burgers to be a tad overcooked and who don't give much of a rat's ass about what sort of rice or cheese is used in their risotto. However, the critics do have a big problem with that.

I don't care if they drink beer or not. Restaurant reviewers should not allow restaurants in the Czech Republic to get away with offering bad beer, no matter how good they might be.

Na Zdraví!

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13 Nov 2009

And the winners are...

Just like I promised yesterday, here you have the list of winners of this year's Sdružení přátel piva awards, plus some comments.


Desítka roku

1. Podskalák, světlé výčepní pivo (Pivovar Rohozec)
2. Moravské Sklepní (Pivovar Černá Hora)
3. Březňák, světlé výčepní (Pivovar Velké Březno)

I must confess that I don't remember ever drinking this beer (which I hope to correct soon). The other two, however, are well placed, yes.

Jedenáctka roku

1. Otakar 11% (Pivovar Polička)
2. Svijanský Máz (Pivovar Svijany)
3. Klášter 11% (Pivovar Klášter)

Otakar is a very good, and not known enough, beer. Máz is my least favourite from the Svijany lot and I would put it well behind Klášter's (which dropped from the first spot for the first time in I don't know how many years).

Dvanáctka roku

1. Svijanský Rytíř (Pivovar Svijany)
2. Březňák, světlý ležák (Pivovar Velké Březno)
3. Bernard, sváteční ležák (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)

This first prize is going to be discussed a lot among Czech beer geeks, some whom, for reasons hard to understand, seem to have something against Svijany. Personally, I think it's well deserved, after all, it's the beer that I always have at home, though if Bernard had won, I wouldn't have any objections, either. Interesting bit, Herold Wheat came in 5th in this category.

Speciál roku

1. Kvasar, 14% (Pivovar Černá Hora)
2. Primátor Exkluziv 16% (Pivovar Náchod)
3. Březňák, světlý ležák speciál 14% (Pivovar Velké Březno)

Kvasar is a beer that has never convinced me. It says it's brewed with honey, but I've never been able to taste anything other than a slightly "overcooked" lager a bit sweeter than others.

Tmavé pivo roku

1. Bernard černé 13% (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)
2. Budweiser Budvar tmavý ležák (Pivovar Budějovický Budvar)
3. Svijanská Kněžna 13% (Pivovar Svijany)

From the start, I don't agree how this category is put together. Gravity isn't taken into account, which I think would make it impossible for any tmavé výčepní to win, no matter how good it can be. That said, Bernard černé is a great beer.

Polotmavé pivo roku

1. Primátor Polotmavý 13% (Pivovar Náchod)
2. Bernard Jantarový ležák (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)
3. Skalák, řezaný ležák (Pivovar Rohozec)

It doesn't matter that what they were tapping the other day was not in good shape, Primátor 13% is a superb beer and, to me, really the best in its lot.

Nealkoholické pivo roku

1. Bernard Free Jantar (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)
2. Bernard Free (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)
3. Radegast Birell (Pivovar Radegast)

I'm not a consumer of Nealko Pivo, but If I was, Bernard would certainly be my beer of choice.

Minipivovar roku

1. Pivovarský Dvůr Chýně
2. Klášterní pivovar Strahov
3. Pivovar Hubertus Kácov

Not to question Chýně's award,but  there's only Prague on the podium (Kácov is well outside of Prague, but their beers can be found regularly at 3 pubs in the capital). I can't help to notice the absence of micros from the rest of the country like, for example, Kout.

Pivovar roku

1. Pivovar Herold
2. Pivovar Svijany
3. Rodinný pivovar Bernard

I was surprised by the choice of Herold as first. They hadn't won anything thus far. How well deserved this prize is or not is very arguable in this category (more so perhaps than in the others). Truth is that not long ago Herold was about to shut down for good when their American owners decided to pack their bags. The new owners have been doing a great job and the brand does have a lot of potential.

A special award was given, something like "New Enterprise of the year", and Pivovar Chotěboř was the winner. The reason, it is the first industrial brewery proper to open in the Czech Republic after more than 30 years. Their beers are of really good quality and the people making and selling them are very enthusiastic. Good luck to them!

The award that closed the ceremony was Sládek roku, brewer of the year. One can have the most cynic attitude towards awards, but things change when one is given to a friend and great bloke. Ladislav Veselý, from U Medvídku, is not just a brewer, he's a Brew Master in all the sense of the term. He's also a personal friend and a fantastic person who also happens to make wonderful beers. Never a prize was more deserved.

Note: Before any of you writes a comment complaining about the absence of this or that beer I'll explain what system the SPP uses to give the prizes. In the first round the members of the association vote for a beer in each category. Those which get the most votes go to a second round where a blind tasting decides the winners. In other words Kout na Šumavě Desítka didn't win anything because it didn't get enough votes.

If you want to change things, become a member and cast your vote next year.

Na Zdraví!

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12 Nov 2009

It's good to be me (2009 edition)

Just like last year, and the year before, the good people of Sdružení Přátel Piva were kind enough to invite me to their annual award ceremony, which, to a certain extent, is actually an excuse to get together for a few beers with friends, colleagues, etc.

This year's edition took place at Pivovar Strahov. It seems thasince there was no need to travel anywhere, more people that usual attended. I arrived at 11 and the downstairs room was already packed.
It wasn't long before a glass of beer almost magically materialised in my hand (Budvar Dark, fine, but way too cold for my taste). It was a rather chilly day, but I was thirsty after the walk from Dejvická. I found Evan Rail and while we exchanged stories about our family lives and greeted a few known faces, the beginning of the award ceremony proper was announced. With a new beer in hand (Chotěboř světlý ležák, really good) I followed the crowd to the room upstairs, which was also wall-to-wall full.
The ceremony was fun and didn't feel too long, partly thanks to the reigning good mood. I'll analyse the awards tomorrow, if I get the list, because I didn't bother to take notes.
Once the formal affair was over, food was served. The line at the buffet table was pretty long, but moved quickly. The food that I had (onion soup, bramboračky, pork ribs, chicken wings and some smoked stuff) was finger licking good (and fingers had to actually be licked since it was easier to eat most of it with the hands).

With a full plate in one hand and a beer in the other we went back upstairs to eat more comfortably. With Evan and his friend Chris (an American brewer living in CZ) we chatted about many topics, mostly beer, though. Later we were joined by Aleš Dočkal and so the beers went by (or the hours, whatever).

Even though there was plenty to choose from, it was very difficult to resist the magnetic attraction of the host beers from Strahov, both great, specially the dark one, and the ones from U Medvídku, in fantastic shape, both. Before leaving, when almost everyone had packed and gone away, I had a glass of Herold Weizen, which I noticed tastier and with more spice than in previous occasions, something that made me really glad.

I had a fantastic time, not only thanks to the very good beer and food, but also because of the people. It was really nice to have a chat, even a short one, with people I hadn't seen for some time, or with new people. It also made me pretty happy to be recognised, and not as the crazy Argentine that comes to drink for free, but as "Pivní Filosof". Several were those who asked me about my daughter, my home-brewing adventures or complimented my blog. One of them, the owner of První Pivní Tramvaj, even asked me for a Czech version of this blog. It would be nice.

Good food, great beers and even better company, can a day get any better?

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9 Nov 2009

Making (at least a bit) of sense of it

Some time ago I wrote a post strongly critisising the Protected Geographical Denomination "České Pivo" (Czech Beer). One of the conditions a beer has to meet in order to be eligible for the DGP is that it must be brewed with a decoction mashing. As if Czech brewing tradition started in 1842, I said then.

Well, I didn't know what I know now.

In the comments of one of the post in the Argentinean beer blog Logia Cervecera I ranted that a proper lager should be brewed using a decoction mashing.

Someone answered saying that that is not true anymore and that most German breweries have stopped using decoction. According to him, thanks to the highly modified malts used today, the process is no longer necessary for soft waters to be able to extract enough sugars from the grain, and that a multi-rest infusion mash (don't know if that's the exact term, but you know what I mean) does the job just fine. He also added that the breweries from Northern Germany never used decoction to begin with.

Since he seemed someone who knew what he was talking about, and I didn't have any data to prove him wrong, I agreed with my silence.

Later, during a conversation with someone else, the information was confirmed. Though the reason I was given was that German breweries had dropped decoction for reasons more related to costs than anything else.

It was then that I started to see some sense in the insistence of "Český Svaz Pivovarů a Sladoven" (Association of Czech Brewers and Maltsters) about this brewing method.

For better or worse, pretty much everything that is brewed in the Czech Republic are bottom fermented lagers and, according to people who know more than I, these kind of beers should be brewed with a decoction mashing.

Of course, there's still all the other conditions, among them the ABV limits (3.8 to 6%). That, I still find stupid.

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8 Nov 2009

A Cholesterol Bomb

Warning: If any of you out there has cholesterol problems, you'd better not read the following recipe. If any of you out there is voluntarily on a diet, leave it! It's not good for you. Get you ass off that chair and do some exercise instead.

Some of the names of classical Czech dishes are rather curious. "Moravský Vrabec", for example. The translation is "Moravian Sparrows", but it's actually made with roasted cubes of marinated pork. It's a favourite pub grub, specially at lunch time.

The other day I thought I would make my version of the recipe. It's ideal for an ugly weekend day, when we have more than enough time, but don't feel like doing much. It doesn't need much work, but it requires quite a bit of time.

Another advantage is that this is a very versatile recipe. Here it's usually served with knedlíky and stewed cabbage, but there's no problem to serve it with potatoes in any form, veggies, rice or salad.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1.5 kg of pork. Shoulder or any other fatty cut.
Almost a pint of beer. I used a good Czech Pale Lager, but a German Pils or Export or even a Pale Ale would do the job just fine.
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of Hungarian paprika.
1 tablespoon of cumin or caraway seed
Some sage, thyme and rosemary
Salt and pepper
Approx. 100g of lard.

For the marinade. In a large bowl put all the ingredients except the pork and lard. I do it this way. I first add the spices, salt and herbs, then a bit of the beer and mix well with an eggbeater. Then I add the rest of the beer, the oil and garlic and mix once again until it looks rather uniform.

Cut the meat in cubes of 3 cm by side, sort of, leaving all the fat, no matter how thick, and add it to the marinade. Leave it on the counter for 2 (maybe 3) hours.

Put the meat with the marinade in a deep and not too big roasting pan. Add enough water to cover 3/4 of it, then add the lard cut in small cubes (without it this would be too light, and we don't want that to happen).

Put the pan in an oven preheated to 200°C and roast for 60-70 min. Halfway through have a look to see if there is enough liquid and also mix it a bit. Serve still warm with some of the juice from the pan.

If you've been careful with the liquid, the meat will be really, really tender. Even the fat will melt on your tongue. Truly delicious stuff.

I didn't try, but I reckon the juice left in the pan could be a nice base for a gravy, otherwise, it's great to dip some bread in.

Since the side was a salad, we paired it with a pale lager, Svijanský Rytíř, the same I used as ingredient. Had I served it with something more solid, I think a Polotmavé, Dunkĺes, Bock, Pale Ale or even a good Porter would have gone down really well.

Enjoy, without moderation. Remember that it's not what you eat, drink or even smoke what kills you, it's how you live.

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5 Nov 2009

Changed my mind

Do you remember that I told you I was going to let MB Porter årgång 2008 age a bit? Of course you don't! Well, I did say it, you can read it here, at the bottom of the page. Doesn't matter, I changed my mind, anyway.

As I've already mentioned, I really fancy dark beers this season. The other day in the afternoon I went to the cellar to pick something dark to drink and there she was, MB Porter, calling me, tempting me. I couldn't resist. I'm not the patient kind of guy, I don't think I'll ever be able to let a bottle gather dust in my cellar for a year or so.
MB Porter årgång 2008 pours very dark amber, clear against the light, topped by a spongy beige head. The bouquet has prunes, molasses, chocolate and a little bit of tobacco. The palate is treated with notes of chocolate, roast, some licorice, everything wrapped in an unctuous mouthfeel that is really nice to roll around your mouth for a bit. The finish is dry with a background of dry fruit, long and very tasty. A hint of smokiness lingering throughout the sip makes this beer even more pleasant to drink in a cold autumn afternoon.

I don't have experience with aging beers and, save for this one occasion, I haven't had the chance to compare the same beer with and without aging. However, something tells me that I did well in opening this beer now, a bit more than a year and a half after it was bottled. I can't really tell why, but I feel that it would not have improved with further aging. I guess I'll never know.

Another thing I noticed. When Gnoff gave me the bottle (thanks mate!), I asked him if this was a "Baltic Porter" or just a Porter. He told me it was the latter. I don't know how "true to style" MB Porter is (and frankly, I don't give a toss), but I couldn't help but notice a strong family resemblance with several Baltic Porters I know. Interesting.

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